The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th October 2022

Uncle Bill had a good birthday do. We were a smallish group. It looked for a while as though it might be smaller as we could not find the rear entrance to Tom and Meta’s house where we had agreed to meet them. It made us late, and Michele, who began to worry, sent me a message to check we had the day right.

Tom has had a couple of strokes, and is not so steady on his feet, but there’s nothing wrong with his memory or his story relating skills. Uncle Bill was soon smiling and chuckling as some of the exploits of his cousins were recounted. Our generation seems a sober, unadventurous lot in comparison.

I gave him a Master Bo’sun calendar as I always do, and a Mr Horace Papers card about Stormont. I thought it would entertain him, but for a few short moments I had misgivings as he wore a very serious expression as he studied it. Then his face broke into a wide smile and he started to laugh. Phew.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th July 2021

I can’t say I am comforted by the news about the numbers of people contracting Covid in the U.K.. Right now it seems Northern Ireland has the highest number of cases per capita. That said, I feel very safe here in the country. The rain came as promised today. My shoes are not waterproof, so the dogs had to make do with a game of football in the garden. They are keener on possession than passing, so we had two footballs, two games really. Westie Boy became rather excited, maybe it was the joy of having had his stitches removed. He grabbed my jeans when I moved to play with Poppy, something he has never done before. We played until the next shower and then came in. The vet was impressed with the striped pyjamas Westie Boy is wearing to keep his healing wounds clean. She said he should continue wearing them. Right now he is asleep on a cushion beside me. I am not keen on dressing up cats and dogs, but I have to admit he looks very sweet, and he certainly isn’t bothered by them. Nor does he look like a dog who would actively ran after a bigger dog to pick a fight. Appearances can be deceptive.

Cousin decided I should have a fire, so she lit the wood burning stove, and for much of today I have been feeding it, then retreating to the sofa to watch yet another episode of Baptiste, a series Cousin has got me hooked on. I have the window open, but it’s all rather a contrast with the hot weather of just two days ago. Poppy’s walks have been going well, and Westie Boy has now been given leave to join us. But it was when I was with Poppy alone a few nights ago that I saw the badgers. There were three of them, playing in the driveway leading up to a neighbours house. I think they were probably young. I have looked for them each time I have passed the house since, but no sign.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd July 2021

I think the weather is going to break tomorrow or Sunday. Yesterday I did virtually nothing other than sit in the shade drinking mint tea or water, read and just enjoy being. Today seems to hold much of the same. Last night Poppy the overweight Labrador decided it was still too hot at 8.30 to walk, so after just a few hundred yards we turned back. I thought I’d walk her this morning, but by 9.00 the sun was already beating down. There’s little shelter from the sun for much of our walk, so exercise is again deferred.

Next week I’m hoping to see Uncle Bill on Monday, meet up with Fiona one day and see my friend Jo on Friday. Rain is forecast for the latter part of the week, but only light rain, so I think we’ll cope. I’m sure to be back in Belfast anyway.

ideally I’d like to revisit the exhibition on La Belle Époque with Charlotte McReynolds, it’s curator, but
as the pandemic rolls on, and numbers continue to rise while our freedom to spread and contract it remains uncurtailed, curators tours are unlikely to happen. In place of government leadership requiring us to exercise caution, individual businesses and venues are having to step up to the plate.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th April 2021

It’s our anniversary: ten years since I brought MasterB, then called Facebook, home. He was young, less than a year at a guess, infested with fleas. He didn’t want to be removed from the students who had rescued him from the mean streets of Brighton, and I didn’t want a timid cat who hid behind the curtain. It wasn’t the most promising start. But against the odds it has been a success. We are a team, cat and human. An already close team which has become closer in lockdown. Not that MasterB knows about the pandemic. But he has become very used to having me around most of the time, has realised that I generally have three meals each day, not the two he was formerly acquainted with, and he now wants three meals a day too. He has given me an emotional support of which he is quite unaware in this time. Watching him has brought me pleasure.

Ten years ago I didn’t really want him. Now I think he’s the best cat in the world.

But for our anniversary we were mainly apart. Gorgeous weather, with blue skies, sunshine and warmth. We have been getting used to blue skies, sunshine and cold cold winds. Celia and I set off to Stratford to walk The Line, a sculpture trail that starts north of the river then ends in Greenwich. The map on the app was rubbish. But the sun shone, we saw two herons in flight, and before we even started our walk Celia got a new strap for her Swatch in the Westfield Shopping Centre. There were serious shoppers. The queue outside Primark was lengthy. Shorter queues, but still impressive, outside shoe shops and mobile phone shops. If I were a shop owner I would be heaving a huge sigh of relief.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th November 2020

I have been suffering from lockdown/coronavirus blues. So the fact that the end is in sight is a huge relief and mood lifter. Poor folk in tier 3 and people in Leicester in particular. Leicester has been in almost continuous lockdown for months. But bad though the lockdown blues are, I prefer them to the terrifying prospect of the virus rampaging through the population to ‘protect the economy’ as some argue, the MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell being one. A compelling reason not to move to Romford if ever I heard one.

His interview on the tv news was a study in opinion over fact. Most statements were prefaced by the words “It seems to me..” and he clinched his ‘arguments’ by saying he had spoken to many of his constituents and they felt the measures were unnecessary and had gone too far. Even Boris Johnson, a man who cannot resist jollying up information with confusing imagery, scores higher on the talking sense scale than Rosindell. Not that it’s a high bar. The evidence is that countries who have taken controlling infection seriously have made the best economic recovery. It’s not a binary choice 0f letting people die or saving the economy, the two go hand in hand.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd April 2020

Fortunately no pre-eight in the morning power tools this morning. Not that MasterB allows sleep beyond seven. His breakfast is a fixed star in his day. He had woke me around half past three. The unmistakable sound of a cat about to empty his stomach. He was on the bed at the time. I was up in a trice, had picked him up gently and made it to the bathroom where there is a floor that is easy to clean before anything left his mouth. I was expecting a hairball, but this looked like biscuits. As his appetite was in no way impaired at breakfast time, nor for the rest of the day, I think biscuits eaten too quickly would be my diagnosis.

After breakfast he seemed to think we should get on with the latest jigsaw.

Let’s do this!

But I had other tasks in mind.

Use of washing machines is embargoed in these flats until eight, so I was ready with my finger on the button. White towels, bed linen, bath mat, face flannels, blouses and tee shirts all drying in the sunshine felt good. I don’t know why getting the washing out on the line, blowing about and drying in sunshine should be so pleasing to me but it is. Simple pleasures. I had other work to do in the garden. My friend Michèle kindly gave me some cuttings that have rooted, and I found geraniums at Sainsbury’s. It took a while, and Celia came round with the cat food which had been delivered to her address, and some very lovely bread. We talked and mooched a bit and then she left and I continued with my raking, trimming and planting. Fingers crossed everything takes. We are due continued fine weather, so at this rate even the tomato plants should be outside before long.

Celia reckons the skies are bluer now than usual for April in London. I may have to dig out some photos from last year to see. I reminded her of the Guildford circular walk we did on Easter Sunday in glorious weather last year. She was dismissive – you’d expect bluer skies in Compton, she said.

I read tonight that social distancing may have to continue until the end of the year. So that sounds like no blackberry picking walk, and no visit to family in Northern Ireland (and therefore no lunches at the divine falafel place by the museum in Belfast). I got a message from my cousin-in-law Michele to say Uncle Bill was well and had been out in the garden. That’s good news. I had seen a postcard of Ballynahinch where he lived before Aunt Ella died and he moved in with his older son. It was from the early twentieth century, posted I think by the Linen Hall Library, with the caption ‘social distancing Ballynahinch style’. I should see if I can find it to post here. Aha, I have it! Click here to see it.  Continue reading